Raleigh – Revenue in NC from military-related items is now at $66 billion annually and with 775,000 retired veterans living here, we are the 8th largest retired military population. It is our duty to support this critical leg of our economy, our national security, and those who serve us so gallantly.
This issue of my newsletter is dedicated to the many legislative accomplishments of the 2021 NC General Assembly towards supporting the heroes who fought for, and those who continue to fight for, our liberties.
Make no mistake about it, in a political world where so many people are clamoring to take all the credit and point out all the blame, these accomplishments are largely due to the collaborative efforts of both Chambers and both political parties. It is gratifying for me to see us better unify our support around a topic so vital to our state and our country.
Income Tax Eliminated on Military Pensions
Our new budget provides for a lot of new changes in our state, but perhaps the most notable, on which I was a co-sponsor is the elimination of state income tax on military pension income. This provision is retroactive to January 1, 2021. It not only assists in improving the quality of life for many of NC’s fearless veterans who risked their lives for ours and now live off of their pensions, but it improves the veteran friendliness and appeal of NC, encouraging the relocation of more veterans to our beautiful state, enabling us to take advantage of the vast amount of skill and knowledge of this much-needed workforce.
Under this elimination provision, the retirement pay of service members who served at least 20 years or medically retired under 10 U.S.C. Chapter 61, as well as, payment plans to beneficiaries of service members meeting the above criteria, are eligible for that retirement pay to be deducted from their adjusted gross income when calculating North Carolina taxable income.
Increased Access to Public Higher Education for Military Personnel and Families
Education can be expensive. Especially when attempting to attend a public university as an ‘out-of-state’ student. Unfortunately, this high expense is often faced by our most selfless citizens. Military members and families are often moved around from place to place with little control over where they’re going next, or how long they get to stay where they’re at. This makes it increasingly more difficult for the family of service members, and even service members or veterans themselves, to receive in-state tuition in any state.
I am a firm believer that everyone deserves a high-quality and affordable education, should they choose to pursue that path. To assist in making this possible for service members and their families, during the 2021 legislative session we passed HB 53, HB 78, and increased scholarship funds for postsecondary education.
In the instance a service member is relocated out-of-state due to active military duty while their dependent is a senior in high school and seeking admission to institutions of higher learning, HB 83 allows those dependents of service members to retain an in-state tuition status following their acceptance, so long as they are attending a North Carolina high school and enroll in the public post-secondary institution no later than the fall academic semester immediately following admission. They must also remain continuously enrolled throughout the duration of their program.
HB 78 also increases accessibility to in-state tuition for veterans and family members by changing state law to fall into compliance with federal regulations and allow service members, their children, and their spouses to apply for 12-month residency requirement waivers. Eligible family and service members may now be charged in-state tuition and applicable mandatory fees to the extent required by 38 U.S.C. § 3679 without fulfilling the 12-month residency requirement.
Additionally, we allocated $2 million in the new state budget to increase scholarships for disabled veterans, their children, and their spouses for postsecondary education through the Patriot Star Family Scholarship Program.
No Veteran Left Behind Project
Veterans dedicated their lives to protecting and serving us. It is time we return the favor.
Serving in our nation’s military comes at a cost that is oftentimes charged to the mental health of many veterans and active duty military. PTSD lingers and suicide rates have painstakingly increased. Between 2020 and 2021, that rate jumped from 26.3 per 100,000 to 28.7 per 100,000. That is why we’ve included $2 million in the state budget for the No Veteran Left Behind project, to assist veterans with mental health support. The project specifically seeks to seamlessly assist veterans in transitioning back to civilian life. These funds will drastically help reach that mission.
To further assist with the mental toll the military leaves on soldiers, our budget includes an additional $400,000 for outreach, training, and other suicide prevention activities to veterans and active-duty military personnel.
You Protect Our State, We Protect Your License and Registration
Deployment can interfere with traditional administrative tasks civilians must conduct to remain in good legal standing. For example, renewing one’s driver’s license or car registration.
To mitigate the difficulties faced by those deployed out-of-state, this session we passed HB 297. The bill requires NC DMV provide a remote option for military personnel serving out-of-state to renew or receive a full provisional license.
Further, it prevents military personnel from being penalized for a license that expired while on deployment, so long as they are able to prove they were deployed at the time the license expired and renewed the license within 30 days of returning.
Lastly, the bill requires NC DMV provide a car registration late-fee waiver for members of the armed forces. This prevents our service members from being penalized for serving our country by waiving any late fees that were assessed for a late car registration during one’s deployment, so long as they can prove they were deployed when the registration expired and renewed the registration within 30 days of returning.
The following are a few favorites in the budget:
$150,000 to NC State’s ‘Soldiers to Agriculture’ Program, which seeks to introduce veterans to career opportunities in agriculture
$200,000 to the NC State Bar for Pisgah Legal Services in Asheville, NC for the Veterans Assistance Program. The program assists homeless and otherwise vulnerable veterans with access to services and resources to obtain permanent housing and improve access to benefits.
$100,000 to annually update the Veterans Resource Guide which educates and assists veterans in learning about and accessing nearby resources
$100,000 to Military Missions in Action to assist disabled veterans and military families
$1,000,000 to enhance and maintain North Carolina’s military presence
$750,000 for 3 new military counselors, one of which will be a State-wide level consultant for rural military members and families outside of military communities
HB 138: Designates April 24th as Wounded Heroes Day in North Carolina